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Chris Christie leaves the door open on marriage equality bill

Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Earlier this week, I wrote about Chris Christie’s non-position on the marriage equality bill in the New Jersey legislature.  Today, ThinkProgress is reporting on a CBS New York interview with the governor in which he staked out a new, slightly different position:

I’ve been very clear on my view on this since I ran for office that I’m not a supporter of same-sex marriage. But on the other hand, the fact is that this is a huge societal change that they’re talking about here and I think that we need to do this in a very deliberate and thoughtful way and get the most input from the public we can before we overturn hundreds of years of societal legal and religious tradition.

To be true, this is certainly not a ringing endorsement, and his last comment does seem to be an implicit plea for a public vote on the issue.  Still, we certainly are moving away from Christie’s promises earlier in his career to unequivocally veto any marriage equality bill that made it to his desk.

As for that “input from the public” Christie mentions, a new Quinnipiac poll released today makes it fairly clear where New Jersey stands on the issue.  For the first time, the poll found a majority of the state’s residents in support of the bill at 52 percent, with only 42 percent opposed.  Among independents, support stands at 54 percent.

It’s too early to know for sure, but Christie certainly seems to be staking out ground for himself to justify not vetoing the bill should it pass.  As Stefan and James pointed out in the comments for my earlier post this week, New Jersey has an intriguing legislative provision whereby a bill can become law after 45 days without the governor’s signature.  This could be a way out for Christie to neither veto nor explicitly ‘endorse’ the bill, while still bringing marriage equality to the Garden State.  You can watch the relevant part of the interview, via ThinkProgress, below.

25 Comments

  • 1. chris hogan  |  January 19, 2012 at 8:00 am

    No doubt the NOMies are furious at Governor Cristie right now for not "standing firm for marriage as the union of a man and woman"(Banning gay marriage).

  • 2. Derek Williams  |  January 19, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Religious tradition Let's see now:
    • imprisonment without trial
    • imprisonment of Galileo for declaring the sun to be at the centre of the solar system
    • burning of Giordano Bruno at the stake for declaring exactly the same thing
    • excommunication of Martin Luther for exposing the sale of Indulgences and other ecclesiastical corruption
    • turning a blind eye to the mass murder of 6 million Jews and tens of thousands of homosexuals in the Nazi Holocaust
    • polygamy
    • incest
    • slavery
    • misogyny
    • racism
    • burning/drowning of witches

    We've largely outgrown these unquestionably 'religious' 'traditions', time now to rise outgrow homophobia.

  • 3. Derek Williams  |  January 19, 2012 at 8:05 am

    I wish they'd allow editing of one's posts on this service. Just so you know – I am aware of all the typos in my post above.

  • 4. chris from CO  |  January 19, 2012 at 8:34 am

    i don't know if this was posted yet here is a list of e-mails of undecided votes in Washington State:
    marymargaret.haugen@leg.wa.gov
    jim.kastama@leg.wa.gov
    joe.fain@leg.wa.gov
    brian.hatfield@leg.wa.gov
    paull.shin@leg.wa.gov
    andy.hill@leg.wa.gov

  • 5. Sagesse  |  January 19, 2012 at 8:48 am

    @

  • 6. peterplumber  |  January 19, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I had that same thought, so I went over there to see what they were saying. They seem to be in denial.
    Christie Gives No Love to SSM in State of State Speech

  • 7. chris from CO  |  January 19, 2012 at 8:55 am

    They are mad. They are pushing for people to write him and hate on us.

  • 8. peterplumber  |  January 19, 2012 at 8:55 am

    If you register as a user & then sign in, then you are allowed to edit your own posts.

  • 9. DaveP  |  January 19, 2012 at 8:55 am

    There'sa fairly major typo in the article. Third paragraph – the word should be 'veto' but the typo made it 'vote'.

  • 10. Jacob Combs  |  January 19, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Very true–thanks Dave!

  • 11. Bruce Stores  |  January 19, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Below is what NOM is sending to it's mailing list. Anyone can request to get on the list by writing bbrown@nationformarriage.org NOM provides a sample letter you can send to Gov.Christie. BUT, it also allows you to erase that letter and write your own. So why not use NOM's very own form to ask Christie to support gay marriage. When NOM discovers this, they'll need to have someone read all the letters they receive before passing them on. Here's NOM's letter:

    ACTION ITEM Home > Action Item
    Tell Governor Christie You Expect Him to Keep His Promises on Marriage
    After promising New Jersey voters in 2009 that "If a same-sex marriage bill comes to the desk of Governor Christie, it will be returned to the legislature with a big red veto across it," Governor Christie now seems to be backtracking. In early January, he suggested to a reporter that he was undecided on the issue, and would make a decision if and when the issue was forced by the legislature.

    While the outcome of any vote in the New Jersey legislature is still very much up in the air, it’s unlike Governor Christie to back away from a controversial issue. As Governor he has a bully pulpit to influence the outcome of what will be a very close vote in the legislature. And with many Republicans urging him to run for national office, becoming the first Republican governor to sign a same-sex marriage bill would be highly damaging to any future aspirations.

    Please use the form below to send a message to Governor Christie today, and then urge your friends and family to send a message, too. Respectfully let him know that voters are looking to him as a man we can trust – a politician who keeps his word. He promised that if a same-sex marriage bill ever came to his desk, he’d give it the “big red veto,” and we expect him to do just that if the same-sex marriage bill passes the New Jersey legislature this year.

    Message Recipients

    Christie, Chris (Republican) – Governor , Office of the Governor

    Email
    Review the Message
    Subject:*

    Dear Governor Christie,

    I and millions of Americans, both within and outside of New Jersey, have come to greatly respect your up-front, common sense approach to politics, and the fact that you are a man of your word and not afraid to stand up to special interests.

    With Democratic leadership in the state legislature making same-sex marriage a top priority this year, I was troubled by your recent comments suggesting you were undecided on the issue, and would only make a decision if and when forced by the legislature.

    In 2009, you promised voters that any same-sex marriage bill to cross your desk would be returned with a "big red veto" — just as you had promised throughout your campaign for governor.

    Governor Christie, voters look to you as a man we can trust. We need politicians who will follow through on their promises. Please, don't become the first Republican to sign same-sex marriage into law. If the legislature passes same-sex marriage this year, keep your promise and veto the bill.

    Sincerely,

    You will receive an email confirming that your message was sent. Check the box if you would also like to receive a copy of this letter.
    Your Information

    *Required Fields

    First Name*

    Last Name*

    Email*

    Phone
    (xxx xxx xxxx)

    Address Line 1*

    Address Line 2

    City*

    State*

    ZIP/Postal Code*

    Country*

    Company/Org Name

    Job Title

  • 12. Bruce Stores  |  January 19, 2012 at 9:59 am

    http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2012/01/19/n-j-la

    N.J. LAWMAKER: GAY MARRIAGE NEARS VETO-PROOF SUPPORT

    By Heather Haddon

    New Jersey Democrats believe they are within spitting distance of securing enough support to override a veto of same-sex marriage legislation if Gov. Chris Christie chooses not support it.

    State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, one of the bill’s sponsors, estimated the chamber had between 24 and 27 supporters for legislation to allow for same-sex marriage in New Jersey. It takes 27 votes in the 40-member state senate to override a governor’s veto.

    “I’m wishing and hoping,” said Lesniak, who also acknowledged that some potential supporters still needed “shoring up.”

    Lesniak, a Democrat representing Union County, counted up to 23 Democrats and four Republicans as supporting a gay marriage, but wouldn’t disclose specific names of those he believes would vote to override a veto.

    Assembly Speaker Shelia Oliver, a Democrat, has said that she has majority support for same-sex marriage legislation, and that she would work to garner the 54 votes necessary for a veto override in the 80-member Assembly.

    Still, Christie noted in a interview with WNYC on Wednesday that the Legislature hasn’t been succeeded so far in passing a same-sex marriage bill, and emphasized that his opposition has been “very well publicized.”

    “I think this type of societal change is something we need to do very deliberately and have as much public input as we possibly can,” the Republican governor said.

    A new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found 52% of New Jersey voters favor gay marriage, the first time approval has topped 50%. Support varies by party affiliation: majorities of Democratic (62%) and independent voters (54%) are in favor, while only 35% of Republicans approve, according to the poll.

    Last week, Senate and Assembly Democrats announced that they were introducing the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act in their chambers as the first bills of the new legislative session. The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the legislation on Tuesday. The Assembly is yet to schedule a committee hearing on the bill.

    Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, said he wanted a floor vote on the legislation before the budget break, which comes in March. Sweeney previously abstained on the bill when it first came up for a vote in 2010, but he has said he now sees it as a civil rights issue.

    In 2003, New Jersey became one of the first states to authorize civil unions for same-sex couples. The bill now under consideration would allow couples with a civil union to “immediately” get a marriage license if they seek one.

  • 13. bythesea  |  January 19, 2012 at 10:05 am

    This surprises me, but that he is hedging at all suggests to me that he doesn't want to veto it. That is huge and I'm sure NOM is going batshit over this.

  • 14. Rich  |  January 19, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I did just that. I took their form and word-smithed it to reflect a pro marriage equality shout out to the Governor. And then I pressed send.

  • 15. DaveP  |  January 19, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Excellent! … and that first sentence reminds me of an Auntie Mame quote…
    "Spitting distance? …..How vivid!" : )

  • 16. frisky1  |  January 19, 2012 at 11:06 am

    The conspiracy theorists in my head are wondering if Christie is working it so a veto proof majority passes marriage equality. Telling the republicans to vote their conscience might be a clue that he's trying to get more than a few of them on board. That would be an easy out for him– He wouldn't have to veto because it would be useless and he won't look like a wimp by just letting it pass without his signature–he can just blame the legislature for tying his hands. And then in 2016 he can take the credit for marriage equality passing under his watch when he runs for Prez.

  • 17. Tyler  |  January 19, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I have no idea what is going on here. This is really uncharacteristically demure of him. And he directly promised during the campaign that if he got a same-sex marriage bill he would "send it back with a big, fat, red veto on it." Also, even though momentum in this country is quickly moving the right way, I can't imagine that having allowed this to become law on his watch will not hurt him in Iowa in January 2016.

    I guess what is so confusing to me is he could easily just buckle down, say yes I will veto it, and threaten Republicans who are thinking of voting for it. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm starting to hold out a little hope, but it just doesn't make very much sense.

  • 18. Seth from Maryland  |  January 19, 2012 at 11:35 am

    remeber also gop sen Jennifer Beck is in support of marriage equality, so if that right and there four other gop senators in secret support that would mean we have five, im starting to think we going to be able overide this veto if a veto even happens, great way to start off a year

  • 19. Fr. Bill  |  January 19, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Governor Christie is younger than Romney and perhaps appreciates the effects the actuarial tables are having on the anti-equality segment of the Republican Party and the nation in general. He also lives in a pro-equality state (his RC Bishops notwithstanding). Our former Republican Governor Lingle vetoed the civil unions bill in Hawaii. The LGBT community and our allies will never forget that and are actively opposing her in her bid for a Senate seat. When her Democratic opponent is selected in the primary, I'm going to send a nice fat contribution and campaign like hell against Lingle. Maybe Christie doesn't want such enmity following him for the rest of his career.

  • 20. bythesea  |  January 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Well, now that I think about it, it probably makes sense if he really does have National aspirations. He would be thinking of 2016 or perhaps even 2020. Given the rate of change in public opinion I wouldn't be surprised if opposing marriage equality becomes an actual political liability by 2016, and I am almost certain it will by 2020. Even in the GOP it may become somewhat of a side issue rather than determinative of support by then. 2016 is a long way off, and it looks likely that Prop 8 will be either overturned or repealed by then, DOMA may very well be struck down by the courts (or even conceivable actually repealed in that time frame), and many more states will have marriage equality by them (assuming a court ruling doesn't make it national somewhere along the way). It may seem like bad politics in the GOP of 2012, but probably not in the long run and in the bigger picture.

  • 21. Josh  |  January 19, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    "But on the other hand, the fact is that this is a huge societal change that they’re talking about here and I think that we need to do this in a very deliberate and thoughtful way and get the most input from the public we can before we overturn hundreds of years of societal legal and religious tradition"

    Overturn? Nothing is being overturned by including more deserving couples in civil marriage. Oh, that's a key point too, it's CIVIL marriage and has nothing to do with religious tradition. Each religious group will continue to exclude any couple they want.

    As for his concern for public input, I don't think he means polls. I think he means putting it to a public vote. At least that was my first impression, however, the above comments give me some pause. The righteous move toward equality, and the fact that politicians support any issue that will get them the most votes, he might not be so against this. Let's hope!

  • 22. Jim  |  January 20, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Way past time.

  • 23. maggie4noh8  |  January 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    ME TOO!

    Dear Governor Christie,

    With the state legislature making marriage equality a top priority this year, I was pleasantly surprised and pleased by your recent comments suggesting you were undecided on the issue, and would only make a decision if and when forced by the legislature.

    We need elected officials who will look at issues from a rational, objective and legal standpoint – putting aside personal feelings and convictions (such as Senator Grisanti of New York).

    New Jersey's own Supreme Court has said something "equal" to marriage is required – it is obvious now, just as it was many years ago, "separate but equal" truly isn't equal. The District Court trial regarding Proposition 8 in California (now pending appeal in the 9th Circuit) provides real evidence in support of marriage equality – of the harms suffered by LGBT families, of the inequality of "civil unions", of the absence of harm to heterosexual families, and not to mention, for religions affirming all marriages – gay and straight, the stripping of religious freedoms.

    I ask of you to please consider this not from a partisan or personal perspective, but from a humanitarian and an American perspective. And I have hopes you will join the majority of New Jersey, and the US for that matter, in supporting LGBT families and marriage equality.

  • 24. maggie4noh8  |  January 20, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I sent emails to all… Especially Kastama, as he now supports!!!! YAY!

    Dear Senator,

    With the state legislature making Marriage Equality a top priority this year, I am writing to you from California in hopes you will join Governor Gregoire, along with the majority of Washington state (and the US for that matter) in support of Marriage Equality.

    We need elected officials who will look at issues from a rational, objective and legal standpoint – putting aside personal feelings and convictions (such as Senator Grisanti of New York – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix73zGi9XDs).

    The District Court trial regarding Proposition 8 in California (now pending appeal in the 9th Circuit) provides real evidence in support of marriage equality:
    •of the harms suffered by LGBT families,
    •of the inequality of "civil unions" or “domestic partnerships”,
    •of the absence of harm to heterosexual families,
    •and for religions affirming all marriages – gay and straight, the stripping of religious freedoms.

    While the intent of civil unions or domestic partnerships may be to confer the legal benefits of marriage, they simply don’t. It is obvious now, just as it was many years ago during the days of Jim Crow, "separate but equal" truly isn't equal.

    I ask of you to please consider this not from a partisan or personal perspective, but from a humanitarian, legal and patriotic perspective. And I have hopes, that with your support, Washington will join Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, plus Washington, D.C. and Oregon's Coquille and Washington state's Suquamish Indian tribes in supporting LGBT families with Marriage Equality.

  • 25. Prop 8 Trial Tracker &raq&hellip  |  January 24, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    […] including nominating the first openly gay judge to the state’s Supreme Court and seemingly stepping back from his earlier promises to veto a marriage equality bill should it come to his […]

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